By Rich Levine
The streak has reached November.
It's now been five weeks since I've had a losing week on these picks.
One more and I'll probably buy a block of programming on local access, throw on a suit and start guaranteeing results. It's feeling that good. The game's just making that much sense.
I'm completely jinxing myself right now.
So, let's just move on to the money-makers.
Ready? One Clap!
The Game: CHICAGO BEARS (-3) at BUFFALO BILLS
Hope the 2008 Lions have their champagne on ice, because after this there won't be anymore winless teams in the NFL. That's right, the Bills are about to win one!
And isn't it just perfect that it will come during a home game that's being played in Toronto? Poor Buffalo. This team has absolutely tortured them this year. It's bad enough to lose every game, but when the Lions did it at least they didn't mess around. They went out every Sunday and got smoked. The Bills just won't embrace their fate. They keep fighting and scrapping and giving their fans reason to get unbelievably excited before taking them out at the knees.
And this happens almost every week.
Anyway, I think this is the week it finally pays off for Buffalo. It's just too bad it has to come during a home game in Toronto.
As for the Bears, they've been heading for a loss like this since they stole that Monday night win over Green Bay in Week 3. Since then, they've slowly unraveled. Each week, revealing greater deficiencies and other reasons for us to question how we ever "almost" talked ourselves into believing the Bears would make something of the season. It reached an all-time low two Sundays ago against the Redskins, and a loss this Sunday will be a nail in the coffin. We'll finally be able to write off the Bears.
Also, is it cool if we all officially stop using the words "Mike Martz" and "offensive mastermind" in the same sentence? Can we just call it what it really is a creative way to not score points?
Through seven games, the Bears have scored more than 23 points only once, and that's not a huge deal. Especially when you have a defense like they do. But it's ridiculous to consider the guy who runs the offense (especially coming off weak stints in San Francisco and Detroit) a genius.
The Pick: Bills (3)
The Game: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-5) at CLEVELAND BROWNS
Is it asking too much for the Patriots to blow out at least one crappy opponent this year? Wouldn't that make you feel a little better about everything? Make you a little more confident? Maybe make you feel a little more comfortable calling them an elite team?
This is their chance. I know it's on the road, but when you're playing a rookie quarterback with no decent receivers, and a team that used up nearly every trick play in its entire arsenal in beating the Super Bowl champs two weeks ago, you have to go in and impose your will. You have to start taking advantage of the easier games, and making quick work of the inferior opponents because there are very few left.
The Pick: Patriots (-5)
The Game: SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (-3) at HOUSTON TEXANS
I understand that when Vegas sets a line, they're not declaring who they think is going to win. Instead, it's based on which number they think will promote equal betting. In Vegas' ideal world, if 1,000 people were gambling on this ChargersTexans game, 500 would take the Chargers, 500 would take the Texans and the sports books would get paid on the juice. I get that. So I'm not going to sit here and scream:
"How in the hell does Vegas think the Chargers will win? Don't they realize that San Diego still hasn't won on the road? That their receiving corps is more banged up than the 2010 Red Sox? That Norv Turner is still the coach!? Or how about the fact that so far this seasons, the 4-3 Texans' only losses have come to Dallas (back before the implosion), the NFC-favorite Giants, and at Indianapolis last Monday? Isn't that enough to earn a team a little confidence against the broken-down, bone-headed 3-4 Chargers?"
Nope. I'm not going to say any of that.
Instead, I'm just going to take advantage of the fact that Vegas thinks Texans (3) is right in the middle, and happily take my place among the 500 winning gamblers.
(Note: Last week on NFL Playbook, I watched a 10-minute Mike Mayock film session which could have been titled "Houston Texans: The Worst Run Defense of All Time," so I'm slightly terrified of what Ryan Mathews andor Mike Tolbert will do on Sunday. Then again, knowing Norv, he'll probably abandon the run after the opening drive.)
The Pick: Texans (3)
The Game: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-6.5) at CAROLINA PANTHERS
Strange story in New Orleans this week.
So, you had a member of the media a radio host on WIST take to the airwaves and cite an "impeccable source" who claims that Drew Brees is currently playing with a fracture and torn meniscus in his knee. The host says that the information is "100 thousand-trillion-million percent" accurate. I'm not sure if he pinky-swore too, but you'd think for a guy, a professional, to go out on that sort of a limb, that maybe he had it from a good place. If not, he shouldn't have a job. Even if it's just a joke, because it's not that funny.
Anyway, Brees responded at practice later that day by drop-kicking a 40-yard field goal with the alleged injured leg, and stating: "I'm a hundred-million-billion-trillion percent sure it would hurt if I tried to drop-kick a football with a broken knee."
From what I'm reading, the guy who made the claims against Brees is just about the least trustworthy person in the state of Louisiana, so maybe it's dangerous to take anything he says seriously. But there's no questioning the fact that Brees has been a very different QB this year. Maybe it's the knee. Maybe its the post-Super Bowl hangover. Maybe its the Madden Curse. Who knows? But on the road, in the division I'll take the points.
The Pick: Panthers (6.5)
The Game: ARIZONA CARDINALS at MINNESOTA VIKINGS (-9)
On one side you have a team mired in utter turmoil. Half the locker room hates their coach whos likely to be replaced any day now. Another half hates their quarterback who's likely to be replaced any day now. They had Super Bowl aspirations, but are now left with nothing. They had one of the best receivers in the game, but are now left with Hank Baskett. They are a complete and total mess. They cant even get a decent post-practice meal!
On the other side, you have . . . the return of Derek Anderson.
The Pick: Vikings (-9)
The Game: TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS at ATLANTA FALCONS (-8.5)
The self-appointed "best team in the NFC" beat the Cardinals last week. So what does that make Tampa now? Best team in the league? Maybe "Team of the Millenium"? I'm going Millenium. Just seems right. Congrats, coach Morris. It only took five wins in seven weeks, but you did it!
OK, now's the time when I stopped being a cynical jackass and admit that the Bucs are truly much better than we thought they were. I'm still not ready to consider them a "good" team. But average works, and with the way Josh Freeman's matured, the emergence of LeGarrette Blount, and the depth and potential of its defense, Tampa Bay might not be THAT far away from contending in the NFC South. But this season . . . child, please.
I know that theyre 5-2, but their wins have come against Cleveland, Carolina, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Arizona and only one of those wins was by more than three points. Meanwhile, their two losses came against the only two legitimate teams on their schedule (Pittsburgh and New Orleans) by a combined score of 69-19. That's more one-sided than RaidersBroncos.
Anyway, on Sunday, Atlanta becomes the third legitimate to run over the Bucs a.k.a. The Best Team That Ever Was.
The Pick: Falcons (-8.5)
The Game: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES(-3)
How long can Peyton keep this going? At this point, he's about two weeks away from playing alongside a team of replacement players. His teammates are getting killed out there, yet somehow he's still standing. He continues to win. He still has the Colts sitting in first place of that division. Its actually pretty infuriating.
But the injuries have to catch up at some point, and Sunday against the well-rested, Vick-led Eagles who will also get back DeSean Jackson is that point. Vick will wear down the Colts 'D' in the end, and without all his weapons, Manning will have a hard time keeping pace.
The Pick: Eagles (-3)
The Game: NEW YORK GIANTS (-7) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
I'd love to hear a recording of Tom Coughlins inner monologue as he watches Pete Carroll from across the field this Sunday. Actually, do you think he'll say anything, or will he just stand there shaking his head in disgust? Coughlin and Carroll coaching against each other like Andrew Dice Clay debating comedy with Carrot Top. Such a mismatch of styles. It should be fun to watch.
I really don't want my bet to suggest that I think Pete Carroll is a better coach than Coughlin. I actually still think the Giants will win the game. But seven points is a lot of points to give the Seahawks at home they've got one of the best two or three home-field advantages in the entire league.
If Matt Hasselbeck ultimately can't play then that complicates things a little here, but even without Hasselbeck, the Seattle defense could keep this game close.
The Pick: Seahawks (7)
The Game: MIAMI DOLPHINS at BALTIMORE RAVENS (-5)
When you consider that the Dolphins are a perfect 4-0 on the road this season, and that the Ravens are fresh off barely beating the lowly Bills, you might think that five point is a lot for the Ravens to give up here. Even at home.
If so, you haven't watched Chad Henne play quarterback in a while. I feel awful for all the nice things I said about him earlier in the season. He just doesnt have it especially not in Baltimore.
The Pick: Ravens (-5)
The Game: NEW YORK JETS (-4) at DETROIT LIONS
I'm not so sure about this Lions team. And I mean that in a good way.
They're 2-5, which, on paper, suggests that we're talking about just another run-of-the-mill mess of a Lions team. But you take a closer look and wonder if they might be destined for a nice little run to end this season.
Looking back on their first seven games, they have the brutal loss to the Bears on Opening Day, a three-point loss to Vick and the Eagles; a two-point loss at Green Bay (before most of the injuries) and an eight-point loss on the road to the red-hot Giants. And did I mention they were without their up-and-coming starting QB for five weeks? I'm not saying that the Lions deserve to be a playoff team at this point. Losses are losses. I'm just saying they're a lot more competitive than their record and reputation would suggest. I'm just saying that they could very easily be 4-3. Im just saying . . .
Holy Wayne Fontes, Detroit might have themselves a football team!
That might not bode well for the Pats come Thanksgiving afternoon, but for now, the Lions are Sexy Rexys problem.
The Pick: Lions (4)
The Game: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS at OAKLAND RAIDERS(-2.5)
You know how much I love the Chiefs. I've been driving the bandwagon since the preseason. And honestly, I'm not even sure why. But you know that if I ever do bet against them, I feel pretty strongly about it.
And you can probably guess where this is going.
This just looks like a three-point win for the Raiders. It looks like one of those boring, bruising division games where neither team scores more than 20 points and the home team hangs on.
I hope I'm wrong. (And I'm still not sure why)
The Pick: Raiders (-2.5)
The Game: DALLAS COWBOYS at GREEN BAY PACKERS (-9)
Are the Cowboys playing for their coach;s job? And if so, is that a good thing for Wade Phillips?
I think so. Why wouldn't they want him back? Wouldn't you? The guy runs his team like it's club med. The players must love having Phillips in charge.
Throw in that the Packers are still hurting and I bet the Cowboys get it together and win one for the Uncle Wade. Or maybe just come up a little short.
The Pick: Cowboys (9)
The Game: PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-4.5) at CINCINNATI BENGALS
This game basically comes down to how bad you think the Bengals are. In which case
The Pick: Steelers (-4.5)
Last Week: 8-5&8232;Season: 58-54-4